State and Jackson officials gathered on January 13 for a ribbon cutting for the Museum Trail, Jackson’s first paved scenic pathway which connects downtown with LeFleur’s Bluff State Park.
“We are thrilled to open up this roughly two-mile scenic pathway that includes a pedestrian bridge through the heart of Jackson,” said Commissioner Willie Simmons, Central Transportation District. “Investing in multi-use paths like this Museum Trail has many benefits that impact the community, such as increasing safety conditions, tourism, tax revenue and urban redevelopment while promoting a healthy and active lifestyle for all citizens.”
The 2.5-mile Museum Trail follows the abandoned GM&O Railroad from Downtown Jackson through Greater Belhaven and along the eastern border of LeFleur’s Bluff State Park. The rail-trail portion of the trail is now complete and runs from Laurel Street to the entrance of the Mississippi’s Farmers Market on Jefferson Street.
The Museum Trail provides access to four remarkable museums and three parks: the Mississippi History Museum, Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, Mississippi Children’s Museum, Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, Belhaven Heights Park, Laurel Street Park and LeFleur’s Bluff State Park.
“Trail systems and greenways help to revitalize cities and improve the health and wellbeing of citizens. We are thrilled to be cutting the ribbon on the Museum Trail,” says Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba. “Constructed specifically for exercise and non-motorized transportation, this trail will connect our city to its rich history and positively impact the health of our citizens and the economic development of our community.”
Projects like the Museum Trail average a return of three dollars for every dollar invested. Similar projects in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and Memphis, Tennessee, have contributed to a significant economic boon for those cities, including new business development, revenue growth for existing businesses and an increase in tourism dollars. Studies have shown that real estate values increase within walking distance of multi-use trails.
Multi-use trails also promote healthier lifestyles. A survey conducted soon after the construction of the Longleaf Trace showed that 20 percent of the 40,000 residents living within three miles of the trail reported an increase in exercise. Multi-use trails have become rallying points for civic improvement in many cities, encouraging neighbors to get to know each other better in what are essentially linear parks. The Museum Trail is a core segment in a planned network of trails that will eventually provide safe bicycle and pedestrian travel throughout Greater Jackson and the region.
The Museum Trail is made possible through federal grants from the Federal Highway Administration appropriated by the Mississippi Department of Transportation and the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District, with grant dollars matched by generous financial contributions from the private sector. Additionally, organizations like the Greater Jackson Chamber of Commerce and the Jackson Heart Foundation, along with numerous individuals and volunteers, contributed time and energy over the ten-plus year effort to reach the groundbreaking. More information on the Museum Trail may be found on the Jxn Trailblazers website or on Facebook @museumtrail.
Neel-Schaffer served as the city’s engineering consultant and Hemphill Construction was the general contractor.